Aqua (skyscraper)

Coordinates: 41°53′11″N 87°37′12″W / 41.8865°N 87.6201°W / 41.8865; -87.6201
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Aqua (skyscraper) is located in Chicago metropolitan area
Aqua (skyscraper)
Location within Chicago metropolitan area
Aqua (skyscraper) is located in Illinois
Aqua (skyscraper)
Aqua (skyscraper) (Illinois)
Aqua (skyscraper) is located in the United States
Aqua (skyscraper)
Aqua (skyscraper) (the United States)
General information
Architectural styleContemporary architecture
LocationChicago, Illinois
Address225 N. Columbus Drive
Coordinates41°53′11″N 87°37′12″W / 41.8865°N 87.6201°W / 41.8865; -87.6201
Construction started2007
CostUS$300 million
OwnerAqua Realty Holdings LLC
Height261.8 m (859 ft)
Technical details
Floor count82
5 below ground
Floor area1,990,635 sq ft (184,936.0 m2)
Design and construction
Architect(s)Design: Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects; Architect of Record: James Loewenberg of Loewenberg & Assoc.
DeveloperMagellan Development Group
Structural engineerMagnusson Klemencic Associates
Main contractorJames McHugh Construction Co
Other information
Number of units747: Apartments
334: Hotel

Aqua is an 82-story mixed-use skyscraper in Lakeshore East, downtown Chicago, Illinois.[5] Designed by a team led by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects, with James Loewenberg of Loewenberg & Associates as the Architect of Record, it includes five levels of parking below ground. The building's eighty-story, 140,000 sq ft (13,000 m2) base is topped by a 82,550 sq ft (7,669 m2) terrace with gardens, gazebos, pools, hot tubs, a walking/running track and a fire pit. Each floor covers approximately 16,000 sq ft (1,500 m2).[6]

Aqua was awarded the Emporis Skyscraper Award as 2009 skyscraper of the year,[7] and was shortlisted in 2010 for the biennial International Highrise Award.[8] In celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, Aqua was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places[9] by the American Institute of Architects Illinois component (AIA Illinois) and was recognized by USA Today Travel magazine as one of AIA Illinois' selections for Illinois 25 Must See Places. It has been compared to 8 Spruce Street in New York City.[10]

When it was completed, the skyscraper was the world's tallest building designed by a woman. It was surpassed in 2020 by the nearby St. Regis, also located in Chicago and designed by Studio Gang Architects.


Aqua was designed by Studio Gang Architects, led by firm principal and founder, Jeanne Gang, and it was the firm's first skyscraper project.[11] The project was the largest ever awarded to an American firm headed by a woman.[12] Loewenberg & Associates are the architects of record, led by James Loewenberg.[13]


The Aqua Tower is located at 225 North Columbus Drive, and is surrounded by high-rises. The location where the tower was built was a former rail yard that is adjacent to the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.[14] To capture views of nearby landmarks for Aqua's residents, Gang stretched its balconies outward by as much as 12 ft (3.7 m).[15] The result is a building composed of irregularly shaped concrete floor slabs which lend the facade an undulating, sculptural quality.[2][16] Gang cites the striated limestone outcroppings that are a common topographic feature of the Great Lakes region as inspiration for these slabs.[17] The tower is a late project for the repurposing of the site from industrial to commercial and residential use.[18]

The building contains 55,000 sq ft (5,100 m2) of retail and office space, in addition to 215 hotel rooms (floors 1-18), 476 rental residential units (floors 19-52), and 263 condominium units & penthouses (floors 53-81).[17] Aqua is the first downtown building to combine condos, apartments and a hotel. Strategic Hotels & Resorts had agreed to acquire the first 15 floors of hotel space upon completion of the building, but terminated its $84 million contract for the space in August 2008, citing significant changes in the economic environment.[19]

Carlson announced May 12, 2010, that it agreed to spend $125 million to open the first Radisson Blu hotel in the United States (Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel) on 18 vacant floors of the highrise.[20] The 334-room hotel opened on November 1, 2011.[21] The building was designed by the lead architect of Studio Gang Architects, Jeanne Gang.[22]

The name 'Aqua' was assigned to the building by Magellan Development Group LLC. It fits the nautical theme of the other buildings in the Lake Shore East development, and is derived from the wave-like forms of the balconies; the tower's proximity to nearby Lake Michigan also influenced the name.[2] Concrete Superintendent Paul Treacy, was nominated as one of Engineering News-Record's (ENR) top 25 news makers of 2008 for the design and implementation of the exterior formwork to mold the undulating façade of the Aqua.[23]


Sustainability was an important factor in Aqua's design. Gang and her team refined the terrace extensions to maximize solar shading, and other sustainable features include a water-efficient irrigation system and energy-efficient lighting. The green roof on top of the tower base is one of the largest in Chicago. The tower is certified LEED-NC.[24][25] Despite its effort to be sustainable, its monolithic concrete slab design without an insulation break transfers heat very efficiently from the inside to outside (winter) and from the outside to inside (summer) due to thermal bridging. Infra-red images of this building illustrates this concept.The waste from the construction of the tower was 16% with the 84% going to recycling centers instead of landfills. Many eco-friendly features were offered to the residents of the establishment. These features included bamboo flooring which was better to produce than hardwood, Greenguard certified HanStone Quartz countertops and plumbing fixtures that would reduce the number of gallons per flow for water conservation.[26]

Curve Balconies[edit]

Jeanne Gang was a rising architect when she and Studio Gang (her firm) took on the project. With the training Jeanne had received during school, Jeanne began with her design that would included balconies extending 2-12 feet outwards. Jeanne was inspired for this design from the topography layered limestone outcropping along the Great Lakes. The balconies are 9 inches thick and get thinner as they extend outwards to help with drainage. James Loewenberg helped SGA by finding an efficient way of creating the concrete balconies. He found that having an edge-form steel plate would guide the pour and once it was done drying it could be snapped back into a straight plane and reused for different curves on the other balconies. This method did leave the balconies without thermal breaks which caused criticism as it would cause a loss of heat during winters due to radiator effect.[27] A function of the curve balconies is that they protect the building from harsh winds which happens to be one of the most difficult challenges in skyscraper engineering.[28]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Aqua". CTBUH Skyscraper Center.
  2. ^ a b c "Emporis building ID 190323". Emporis. Archived from the original on 2015-03-22.
  3. ^ "Aqua". SkyscraperPage.
  4. ^ Aqua at Structurae
  5. ^ Diesenhouse, Susan (28 February 2007). "Work to begin on Aqua tower". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  6. ^ "Aqua Tower Tour". Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. 17 December 2008. Archived from the original on 2014-12-19. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  7. ^ Lutz, BJ (24 September 2010). "Aqua Named 2009 Skyscraper of the Year". NBC Chicago News. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  8. ^ "The Met High-rise apartment building wins International Highrise Award 2010" (PDF) (Press release). German Architecture Museum. 2010-11-14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-19. Retrieved 2014-12-18. Commendation certificates were awarded to the 262-meter high-rise apartment building Aqua Tower (Chicago) by Studio Flores (Chicago)...
  9. ^ Waldinger, Mike (January 30, 2018). "The proud history of architecture in Illinois". Springfield Business Journal. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  10. ^ "25 Must See Buildings in Illinois". USA Today. August 9, 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  11. ^ King, John (10 October 2006). "Visionary architect fuses imagination, common sense". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-08-04.
  12. ^ Becker, Lynn (4 May 2006). "The Third School". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  13. ^ Novak, Lawrence (2010). "Case Studies: Concrete Mixed Use Buildings: Aqua Tower, Chicago, Illinois". Portland Cement Association. Archived from the original on February 13, 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  14. ^ "Studio Gang".
  15. ^ "Architecture Jobs Metro News". World Architecture News. 10 February 2008. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  16. ^ "Studio Gang Architects design Aqua Tower in Chicago". World Architecture News. 5 February 2008. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  17. ^ a b Sharoff, Robert (4 June 2006). "How a Park Changed a Chicago Neighborhood". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
  18. ^ "Studio Gang".
  19. ^ "Strategic Hotels & Resorts, Inc. Acquiring 15 floors of the Aqua Building in Chicago for $82.4 million; Space to be Completed as 200 Hotel Rooms and 20,000 square foot Ballroom". Hotel Online (Press release). Strategic Hotels & Resorts, Inc. 28 September 2006. Archived from the original on 8 July 2008. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  20. ^ "Carlson announces the U.S. debut of Radisson Blu with Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago on 11.1.11" (Press release). Carlson. 22 September 2011. Archived from the original on 19 December 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  21. ^ "Al Faisal Holding adds to hotel portfolio". Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  22. ^ "Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel". Retrieved 2017-02-01.
  23. ^ Van Hampton, Tudor (7 January 2009). "Former Bartender Pours a Cutting-edge, Concrete Cocktail for Hip, New Skyscraper". Engineering News-Record. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  24. ^ Stephens, Suzanne. "Curves Over Chicago: Aqua, a new 82-story residential tower and hotel near Lake Michigan, adds a new dynamism to the city's skyline". GreenSource Magazine. Archived from the original on 2015-01-24. Retrieved 2014-12-18. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  25. ^ "Aqua Tower". Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  26. ^ "The Aqua Tower".
  27. ^ "Aqua Tower, Chicago, USA". The Tall Buildings Reference Book. 2013. pp. 380–385. doi:10.4324/9780203106464-48. ISBN 9780203106464.
  28. ^ "The Aqua Tower".

External links[edit]